Could My Supplements be Causing me Harm

Have you ever wondered if your supplement program is the correct one for you? Do you know if it maintains the correct balance of minerals in your body? Did you even know how important it is that minerals are correctly balanced? Recent, and regular, headlines scream "bad news" about supplementation, with little regard for the vast quantity of positive findings. Much of it is scare-mongering and misinterpretation of scientific research. Critics of "higher than RDA" doses of vitamins claim that because the body excretes certain vitamins, we may have "over-dosed" in some way. This is as unreasonable as saying that excreting urine means that we have over-dosed on water. You will drink water; it will perform many vital functions, and then leave your body as urine.

This does not mean you have taken an "excess" of water. Likewise, when certain vitamins are excreted, it's because they have fulfilled a vital function and are no longer required. For instance the B-vitamins stain urine a bright yellow when they are excreted. Take "too much" vitamin C, to what is known as "bowel tolerance", and the body will "protest" with diarrhea. This sign of vitamins being excreted does not necessarily mean they were taken to excess.

But there are legitimate concerns about excess nutrients too. The body will manufacture many vitamins, and we have seen from a couple of examples above that it has the capacity to excrete what is no longer needed. Turning from vitamins to minerals, although these are essential in the right amounts, did you know that excess mineral intake can negate the beneficial intake of vitamins? It is a question of maintaining the correct balance.

Although the body can excrete surplus amounts of certain vitamins, it cannot get rid of many possible mineral excesses. Nor can it produce vital trace minerals in the first place, which is why many people take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. A practice I am strongly in favour of. However, as well as deficiencies of vitamin and mineral causing health problems, many symptoms of ill-health are associated with vitamin and mineral excesses. For example: * Too much zinc can reduce the effectiveness of vitamin D * Too much calcium can reduce the effectiveness of vitamin A and magnesium * Too much copper has been associated with headaches * Too much iron has been associated with hypertension, arthritis and headache Zinc, calcium, copper and iron were specifically chosen for the "problems" above, because all four are generally considered beneficial and essential for good health. And indeed they are - so long as they are in balance with the other minerals in the body.

Mineral imbalances can arise from poor diet, stress, pollution and - it has to be admitted - from taking an inappropriate mix or quantity of supplements. Too many people simply assume that it is "good" or even "harmless" to take huge quantities of supplements. While I approve of supplementation, it is not the case that more is necessarily better.

It's important to maintain the correct balance of minerals in your body, but this isn't by any means straight-forward; so you would be well-advised to see advice. But from whom? If you consult a conventional medical practitioner you may find them unsympathetic to the idea of supplements at all. If you consult a complementary therapist, many simply recommend a whole cocktail of supplements, with the best of intentions, but if it is prepared "from their head" it may be ineffective, or even have ill-effects such as the ones mentioned above. A safer approach is to use an objective tool and base your supplement program on the results of a scientifically validated test such as a Hair Mineral Analysis, or HMA. The minerals in your bodily tissues are reflected in your hair.

Analyzing the hair provides excellent information on longer-term nutritional status and how well your body is functioning. Blood or urine tests are biased towards information about your mineral levels at the time the test is taken. For instance, a blood test may indicate a high potassium level if you've just eaten a banana, even though you would benefit from a potassium supplement. Furthermore, the hair analysis report picks up and addresses mineral imbalance by including computerized ratios of beneficial and harmful minerals. Accurate manual calculation would be nigh-on impossible, or at least, would take many hours. This is even assuming that practitioners had the familiarity with all the necessary scientific research than exists on the subject.

A scientist, specialising in Hair Mineral Analysis, has collaborated with computer scientists to produce the information for the test. It is these ratios, rarely mentioned outside the field of Hair Trace Mineral Analysis, which will determine the effectiveness of your supplement programme. One page of the report is devoted to providing you with a supplement program that reflects your mineral status. Another page provides dietary advice along the same lines. Diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner is always essential before resorting to a complementary approach, and you should NEVER change your prescription without permission from your GP. But if medical investigations have failed to find a reason, or suggest an effective treatment for your symptoms, HMA represents an invaluable and cost-effective next step to determining whether mineral imbalances could be a factor.

Joy Healey qualified as a nutritionist in 2000, at the prestigious Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. To learn more about Hair Analysis, view a sample report, and see how to order online, visit http://www.4-hair-mineral-analysis.com

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